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Why best-selling author Gillian Flynn has anger issues

GILLIAN FLYNN, the game-changing author of Gone Girl, Sharp Objects and writer behind buzzy new film Widows, gets riled up about sexist attitudes to female anger. By GEORGIA SIMMONDS

Gillian Flynn is someone who portrays women differently. Her 2012 novel Gone Girl, which she turned into an Oscar-nominated script for director David Fincher in 2014, gave us the elaborately scheming Amy – an anti-heroine we didn’t know we needed. This year, her 2006 novel Sharp Objects was adapted into an acclaimed HBO TV series, executive produced by Flynn, with Amy Adams in the lead role as troubled, hard-drinking heroine Camille. 2018 also sees her collaborate with visionary director Steve McQueen for his first film since 2013’s triple Oscar-winning 12 Years A Slave – and in Widows, a subversive, female-led heist thriller, 47-year-old Missouri-born Flynn has found fertile ground. Set in Chicago (where the former journalist currently lives) and based on Lynda La Plante’s 1983 British TV series, Widows focuses on four women – played by Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki and Cynthia Erivo – following the loss of the men they have long been dependent on. It’s the perfect project for someone who’s made their name examining the nuances of female rage and pain.

Rosamund Pike earned an Oscar nomination for her lead in 2014’s Gone Girl
Cynthia Erivo, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki and Viola Davis star in Widows

Why do you think we find female anger so powerful on screen? Because we don’t see it very often done in its true form. We see it done in a ‘crazy psycho’ way and it can be scary as hell (when you think of Fatal Attraction) but in a way that is still dismissible because you can say, “That’s the crazy psycho b****.” But when you see true rage from an actual female character who has been established, it’s a very potent thing. That’s why it’s such a big blast of oxygen.

Why is it important to keep telling stories about psychological darkness in women? I think it’s hugely important to see all kinds of women. There are plenty of people writing really ‘good’ women, but I also think that it’s important to see women who aren’t so good and women who aren’t perfect; who are flawed, psychologically damaged, angry, dark and rageful. I think that is part of the human psyche and part of women’s psyche and if we don’t see that, it’s a very dangerous place to put women in. Saying that women don’t have those qualities – that’s saying that we’re less than human.

Do you think society fears female rage right now? I think it’s trying to figure out what it is, and in some ways respectfully acknowledge it. Especially in the aftermath of the #MeToo movement. In a way, for the first time there is an awakening, an acceptance that there is a place for it. But in some quarters there is still a deep fear and dismissiveness of it. There’s a lot of trying to tamp it down and I think that’s dangerous because I don’t think right now it’s going to be tamped down.

What makes you angry? Trying to be tamped down! [Laughs] If I’m angry about something and someone tries to tell me why I shouldn’t be angry, that is the surest way to make me even more angry. Because I don’t think men hear, “This is why you shouldn’t be angry…” That doesn’t happen, and I think that’s really sexist.

Widows is out now (UK) and November 16 (US). Read the full interview with Gillian Flynn in PORTER’s Winter 2018 issue

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